Nintendo’s next big release for the Switch arrives in the form of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, an enhanced port of the Wii U version. Mario Kart 8 is the first Wii U game to be ported over to the Switch (ignoring the simultaneous release of Breath of the Wild) and hopefully not the last. While of course the Wii U had its flaws, it sported some phenomenal exclusives, all of which deserve the awareness and sales that the Switch can provide. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a great opportunity for those who never owned Nintendo’s ill-fated console to try out one of the best entries in the series. But for those who played the Wii U version to death (myself included) is it worth dropping another $80 on?
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe comes with all the courses, characters and karts that were in the Wii U game, including the four extra cups that were originally sold as DLC. These cups have some of the best tracks in the game, including some unique mash-up courses like Excitebike Arena, Mute City, Hyrule Circuit and Animal Crossing. All the other DLC content, like the Villager (boy and girl) from Animal Crossing and colour variations for Yoshi and Shy Guy, are also packed in. There are of course some additions exclusive to the Switch version. Inkling Boy and Girl from Splatoon, Bowser Jr., Dry Bones, Gold Mario and King Boo all join the roster, and while these are cool little additions, I would’ve loved some new race tracks even if it was only one more cup.
Battle mode in the original Mario Kart 8 was incredibly underwhelming, utilising remixed tracks from the race mode instead of dedicated arenas, something which is hard to fathom looking back. Thankfully Deluxe has come prepared, adding a new battle mode called Renegade Roundup, wherein one team has permanent piranha plants attached to the front of their karts and the opposing team must evade getting ‘caught’, as well as returning modes Balloon Battle, Shine Thief, Bob-omb Blast and Coin Rush. Best of all, there are now eight battle courses to wreak havoc in, four from previous Mario Kart games and four brand new ones: Battle Stadium, Sweet Sweet Kingdom, Dragon Palace and Lunar Colony.
It took a while for me to get into a solid set of consecutive online multiplayer matches, mainly due to low player count prior to release. Presumably this won’t be an issue once the floodgates open on release day. Once I finally got a few decent matches in, I had a blast, and considering this is Nintendo, my online experience was pretty seamless. The time between choosing battle mode and actually getting into a game was negligible, and the same goes for the downtime between matches. In the games I played there was little-to-no lag or rubber banding, despite playing with people from Italy, Japan and the Netherlands.
There’s a few other UI and quality of life changes, in addition to tilt controls, you can now toggle auto steering and auto accelerate. The former ensures you’ll never drive off the edge of the road, the latter lets you focus on using items and steering. These additions are perfect for kids or anyone not familiar with racing games and are easily accessed from the pause screen. Deluxe allows you to pick up two items at once and adds a third, pink level of boost after blue and red. While definitely a cool bonus, these two changes don’t add all that much to the gameplay.
The Wii U version was a visual delight and Deluxe is no different, even improving upon the visuals in some regards. The resolution jumps from 720p to 1080p (docked), with a rock solid 60 fps in both handheld and docked mode. The truly discerning gamer will be pleased to learn that the 59fps frame-dropping glitch from the Wii U version has been fixed for Switch, and so has fire hopping, a sneaky exploit that allowed speed runners to get the most out of boosts.
Just like taking Breath of the Wild on the go for the first time, playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in handheld mode is kind of mind blowing. The visual fidelity and performance is absolutely phenomenal for something you can play in bed, on the bus or in a cafe. Especially when you compare it to the last handheld Mario Kart, Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS. It may be a port, but the Switch’s portability adds significantly to its value and cements it as the definitive version. When I think of all the Switch owners who never had a Wii U, trying out this game for the first time, I can’t help but grin like an idiot. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the most robust and aesthetically pleasing Mario Kart to date, and it couldn’t be a more perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch.